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John William Waterhouse (6 April 1849  10 February 1917)  Ulysses and the Sirens  Oil on canvas, 1891  100 x 201.7 cm  National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Goback 67 / 86 Forward

Title: Ulysses and the Sirens
Description:
 
John William Waterhouse (6 April 1849 — 10 February 1917)
Ulysses and the Sirens
Oil on canvas, 1891
100 x 201.7 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

A siren in Greek mythology was a creature half bird and half woman who lured sailors to destruction by the sweetness of her song. According to Homer there were two Sirens on an island in the western sea between Aeaea and the rocks of Scylla. Later the number was usually increased to three, and they were located on the west coast of Italy, near Naples. They were variously said to be the daughters of the sea god Phorcys or of the river god Achelous. 

The Greek hero Odysseus (English: Ulysses), advised by the sorceress Circe, escaped the danger of their song by stopping the ears of his crew with wax so that they were deaf to the Sirens; yet he was able to hear the music and had himself tied to the mast so that he could not steer the ship out of course. Another story relates that when the Argonauts sailed that way, Orpheus sang so divinely that none of them listened to the Sirens. In later legend, after one or other of these failures the Sirens committed suicide. In art they appeared first as birds with the heads of women, later as women, sometimes winged, with bird legs.

The Sirens seem to have evolved a primitive tale of the perils of early exploration combined with an Oriental image of a bird-woman. Anthropologists explain the Oriental image as a soul-bird--i.e., a winged ghost that stole the living to share its fate. In that respect the Sirens had affinities with the Harpies.

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Goback 67 / 86 Forward
John William Waterhouse (6 April 1849  10 February 1917)  The Lady of Shalott (Study)  Oil on canvas, 1894  47 x 27 in  Falmouth Art Gallery, Falmouth, Cornwall, UKJohn William Waterhouse (6 April 1849  10 February 1917)  Ulysses and the Sirens  Oil on canvas, 1891  100 x 201.7 cm  National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Victoria, AustraliaJohn William Waterhouse (6 April 1849  10 February 1917)  The Shrine  Oil on canvas, 1895  88 x 42 cm  Private collection
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